Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"Lent - Making space for God"

I was recently on the metro heading back home from JFK airport to Harlem.  The train was pretty full.  Standing by the door was a young woman listening to music on her headphones.  She seemed lost in her music and was humming fairly loudly, gaining the attention of the other passengers around her who seemed faintly amused by this.  Looking at her kindly, a man in his 40’s turned to the lady next to him and said in a gentle southern voice, that reminded me of Forrest Gump, “My Momma said you can’t hear God with those things in your ears.”  The lady, a black New Yorker, responded simply, “That’s right.”

Silence.  We can’t hear God without silence.  And yet many people seem to be afraid of silence, perhaps because they’re afraid of themselves-their own thoughts, fears or problems -or maybe even God!  But we can’t hear God without silence and if I can’t hear God I can’t begin to know his will for my life.  Traditionally Lent is a time when we give things up to make extra space for God through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  Maybe we could give up listening to music, watching TV, playing computer games or looking at Facebook.  In its place we would have space for God and who knows what could happen?  

Blessed Mother Teresa knew our need for silence: “God is the friend of silence.  His language is silence… We need silence to be alone with God, to speak to him, to listen to him, to ponder his words deep in our hearts.  We need to be alone with God in silence to be renewed and to be transformed.  Silence gives us a new outlook on life.  In it we are filled with the grace of God himself, which makes us do all things with joy.”  I dare you!  Make time for God in silence! Every day for 10 minutes!  This Lent could change your life!  

God Bless  each of you!

Fr. Emmanuel Mansford

Friday, February 13, 2015

Interior Attraction to a Matchless Beauty

 “I led them with cords of compassion,
    with the bands of love.”
Hosea 4:11

“Contemplation of the glory of the Lord Jesus in the icon of the Transfiguration reveals to consecrated persons first of all the Father, the Creator and Giver of every good thing, who draws his creatures to himself (cf. Jn 6:44) with a special love and for a special mission. "This is my beloved Son: listen to him!" (cf. Mt 17:5). In response to this call and the interior attraction which accompanies it, those who are called entrust themselves to the love of God who wishes them to be exclusively at his service, and they consecrate themselves totally to him and to his plan of salvation (cf. 1 Cor 7:32-34).”
-          Saint John Paul II Vita Consecrata (§17)

It is not uncommon to find in our hearts suspicion towards things we find attractive, especially when we are trying so sincerely to seek the will of the Lord. This misgiving is understandable and we ought to have a healthy suspicion towards what might be simply a base attraction rooted in the flesh. We need to have a discerning heart in these matters and yet resist being rigid by giving ourselves permission to be drawn by the Lord.

I was impressed by the words of St. John Paul II saying that our response is not only to a call but a call that is accompanied by an interior attraction. Do I find in myself, in the interior man, an attraction to belong exclusively to the Lord? This is an essential question to ask. I think that the dynamic of attraction is quite amazing, especially when we recognize that it is the Lord who is drawing us to himself. Several times in the document Vita Consecrate JPII makes reference to the tremendous beauty of the Lord, in one such instance he calls those who are consecrated to the spiritual path of philokalia (love of divine beauty).The beauty of the Lord is without match, in fact all created beauty is only a reflection of His eternal beauty .

How is this related to a vocation to consecrated life though? This is my own reflection on the matter, but I am speaking from experience. Whenever I find something beautiful I feel attracted to that thing, be it music, art, a building, a landscape, a person…there is a draw, a desire to know more. I think this draw comes from finding consolation in beautiful things, and what this feeling of consolation says to me is that I belong here, I am home here. As the scale of beautiful things goes up the Lord is at the top, and so in finding the Lord beautiful (and in him revealing his beauty) I feel most at home, I can say I belong here.

 I think this is why interior attraction accompanies the call, we recognize the beauty of the Lord (which is attractive) and allow ourselves to be drawn by Him to Himself. After some time spent pursuing the Lord, hopefully, if it is your vocation, what will emerge is the conviction to belong entirely to Him.

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.” Psalm 27:4

God Bless each of you!

Brother Lazarus

Monday, February 2, 2015

Prophets of Hope

            While winter apocalypses were being predicted the other week I was basking in the sunshine of northern California in the San Francisco bay area. Several friars and sisters went out to support the Walk for Life West Coast rally that happened on January 24th. Surrounding the “Walk” we were blessed to be able to do a number of other evangelistic events in the area as well, one of which was a visit to UC Berkeley’s campus. We descended on the campus with friars and sisters on the first day of their classes and quickly realized that unlike most other places we’ve been, we were not the weirdest looking people around!
            In the course of the day we had a few strange conversations prefaced with, “Wow, where can I get a gray dress like that?”  One of our encounters, however, was truly anointed. We met a young man, Colin, searching in the true sense for meaning, for the truth, for hope. The conversation went deep quick and we found ourselves sharing about the struggles of life, suffering, despair, depression, faith and the longing of the human heart for something more.
            At a certain point I shared with him how St. Francis had been searching in a similar way and that his prayer he raised to God for years was, “Who are you God? And who am I?” Immediately Colin blurted out with eagerness, “So what did he find?!” His heart thirsted for an answer; it thirsted for an authentic hope in the midst of life’s struggles. This opened the opportunity for me and the brother I was with to share not only how St. Francis had encountered Jesus Christ and the joy and hope that he gives to life, but we also shared how today in our own life we both have experienced the reality of his love. This is the love of a God who does not simply hit the delete button on evil’s presence, but takes it on himself and makes it a source of new life.

            In the end every human heart that finds itself walking in the “valley of tears” wants to know they are not alone…and as religious we are blessed to be that prophetic witness in the world speaking with our lives and words the message of Christ, “Do not be afraid!”… “I am with you always.” It is His presence in the world, in our lives, that gives us an enduring hope no matter where we may find ourselves on the journey of life.